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Digital transformation efforts stymied by underinvestment in people

Last updated: 03-14-2020

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Digital transformation efforts stymied by underinvestment in people

Commentary: According to a Flexera CIO survey, companies aren't focused nearly enough on re-skilling employees.

For any digital transformation effort, there are two primary considerations: People and data. As I've written, too many enterprises rush to embrace data science yet discover they can't manage the "science" without first spending a lot of effort prepping their "data." However, there's an even more fundamental gap, one that leads to better data but isn't getting the attention it deserves within the enterprise. As a new Flexera CIO survey indicates, companies rushing to embrace digital transformation may not be investing enough in their people. 

Over the years, we've watched waves of technology trends break on the walls of culture, which is another way of saying "people." The big deal in big data? Cultural transformation. The biggest hurdle to DevOps? Also culture. In tech we like to make believe that change is just a software upgrade away, but truly fundamental change comes from people.

As such, it's a little disappointing to see that while enterprises are doing reasonably well in terms of the maturity of their technology or customer experience, according to the Flexera survey, their lowest-rated area of maturity is "workforce re-skilling" (Figure A).

Sure, 84% expect to increase investments to upskill existing employees, but just 26% plan to do so "significantly." The remainder (58%) merit a "somewhat increase." And while it makes sense that the top driver of digital transformation would be customer experience, it's not particularly comforting that these IT executives may not perceive the connection between their people and the ability to actually pull off the transformation, with workforce re-skilling barely on the radar (Figure B).

Later in the report, 89% of CIOs surveyed bemoan a lack of "good quality data" as an impediment to quality decision-making. I'm sure they're right, but equally sure that investments in their people would both help them to gather better data and to make better use of the data already available.

Disclosure: I work for AWS, but nothing herein relates to my employment there.


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